Clean sweep: Top 10 AZ prep football players leaving the state

Out-of-state colleges just ran the table on Arizona’s Pac-12 football programs.

With Quintin Somerville‘s commitment over the weekend to accept Michigan’s offer to play defensive end for the Wolverines, the top 10 college prospects in Arizona have all opted to leave the state to begin their college careers.  Saguaro High‘s Somerville was the last of the group to make his decision, which he announced Saturday.

Oregon scored big, pulling in three of the  top four commitments from that elite group, while California pilfered two more from their neighboring state.

But none are heading to Tempe or Tucson — despite the insistence by both Arizona State and University of Arizona coaches that they are dedicated to rounding up the talent in their own backyard.

Yes, both schools have added local players to their rosters.  But they’re missing out on the cream of the crop.

Somerville’s commitment to Michigan kept Oregon from making a clean sweep of the top four prospects.  The 6’1″, 230-pound strongside defensive end, a 4-star recruit ranked the nation’s No. 18 at that position by 247Sports, is the UofM’s 18th commitment in the 2021 class — a class ranked in the top five nationally.

Oregon did snag the No. 1-ranked player in The Arizona Republic‘s Big 150 list of the state’s top prospects, Ty Thompson from Mesquite High School in Gilbert.  The 6’4″ quarterback piled up more than 4,000 yards passing and threw 45 touchdown passes to lead Mesquite to the 2019 4A state championship.

The Ducks also added a couple of top offensive linemen with No. 2. Bram Walden and No. 4 Jonah Miller.  Miller, from Sahuaro High School in Tucson, is the only top-10 player from outside the metro Phoenix area.  Walden plays for Saguaro in Scottsdale, where he was a key part of the Sabercats’ run to the 2019 state title game.

The remainder of the top 10 prospects include: Denzel Burke, a wide receiver/cornerback from Saguaro who committed to Ohio State; Steven Ortiz, Jr., a defensive back at Desert Edge HS who committed to Minnesota; Trey Reynolds, a Queen Creek HS linebacker headed to Utah; Hunter Barth, a safety at Queen Creek committed to California; Kai Millner, a quarterback from Higley HS who will be joining his former teammate, Spencer Brasch, also at California; and Noa Pola-Gates, a defensive back at Williams Field HS committed to Nebraska.

So what are these programs doing differently than the Sun Devils and the Wildcats?  There are a lot of different reasons that draw athletes to one school or another.  For Somerville, for example, it was the academics at Michigan, as well as the offensive system he would be playing in.  For Milner, he was excited about getting to re-unite with his former teammate at California.  Pola-Gates just wanted to get out of his comfort zone and “spread his wings” beyond the Arizona borders.  Reynolds fell in love with the coaching staff at Utah.  And Ortiz felt Minnesota was a program on the rise and saw an opportunity to be a part of that resurgence.

But Oregon’s biggest edge, from what local coaches are saying, appears to boil down to the Ducks’ coaching staff being able to establish a good relationship with the kids that was constant, and frequent, throughout the recruiting process.

To the contrary, some of the local prep coaches feel that ASU and UofA have been more focused on mining talent-rich California than beating the bushes in their home state.

As Mesquite coach, Scott Hare, offered in a recent interview in The Republic, the Arizona schools “are not showing them (the kids) the love that schools like Oregon are showing them.”  Hare noted that, despite being right there in ASU’s neighborhood, head coach Herm Edwards never inquired about Mesquite’s top-ranked prospect, Ty Thompson.

And that only made Oregon’s recruiting job that much easier.